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Bemidji HS girls hockey team opens playoffs with gritty win

Bemidji's Allie Lapp crosses the blue line and looks to take a shot on net ahead of Brainerd/Little Falls' Sarah Gorvin Saturday at Nymore Arena. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

The true test of a team's character is how the athletes will react when facing a pressure situation and Saturday night at the Nymore rink the Bemidji High School girls hockey team passed a difficult exam when it edged Brainerd-Little Falls 1-0 in the opening round of the section playoffs.

The Lumberjacks entered Saturday's contest ranked second in the section while B-LF was rated seventh. On paper Bemidji should have advanced to the second round with relative ease but the Flying Warriors, and especially goalie Kierra Howard, were not going down without a fight.

"Almost everybody in the section has strong goaltending," said Jacks coach Matt Menne. "Maria Thompson in our net had a great game and the Brainerd-Little Falls goalie was outstanding. She kept them in the game and kept the pressure on us.

In a one-goal game you can never relax. We had to keep battling. In the long run, it might have been good for us to face that pressure in the first round of the playoffs."

The game's lone goal came 10 minutes into the action when a shot from the right circle glanced off Jessica Hunt's skate and into the net. The Lumberjacks were on the power play at the time as B-LF's Zoe Wolhart was in the box for checking.

Both teams had opportunities in the opening stanza as the officials called seven minor penalties, four of them on the Lumberjacks. Bemidji held the upper hand in territorial play, however, and that helped BHS forge a 10-6 lead in shots on net.

The home team continued its attack in the middle session and owned a 17-6 edge in shots on net. The trend continued in the final period and, once again, the Jacks outshot the Flying Warriors, this time by an 8-5 margin.

"There were games this season where we held the upper hand but our opponent would slip a shot or two past us and we would lose," Menne said. "But that didn't happen Saturday. Our defense was strong the entire game and we gave up only a few quality chances. The bottom line is we shut the door on them and when you toss a shutout and get the win, it's tough finding anything bad to say about the performance."

Saturday's victory vaulted Bemidji into the second round of the section playoffs and a Tuesday home game against the winner of Saturday's Moorhead-St. Cloud contest. Tuesday's action will be at the Nymore rink at 7 p.m.